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Ten best books about Ireland

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(Read caption) Ireland has long served as a source of inspiration to writers.

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Looking for something good to read on St. Patrick's Day? You've got your pick when it comes to both great Irish literature and that by the multitude of non-Irish who were inspired by the Emerald Isle to pick up their pens and write. Below is a list of those most likely to please:

1. "Ulysses" by James Joyce. It's hard not to start any list of books about Ireland with James Joyce's 1922 classic detailing the passage of Leopold Bloom through Dublin on June 16, 1904.

2. "The Heather Blazing" by Colm Tóibín. This story of a Dublin high court judge and his family offers gorgeous, understated prose and a feel for the glories of the south Irish coast.

3. "Trinity" by Leon Uris. Through the intersecting lives of several Irish families, Uris tells the story of Ireland from the Famine of the 1840s on through the Easter Rising of 1916.

4. "How the Irish Saved Civilization" by Thomas Cahill. Cahill presents Ireland as "an island of saints and scholars" who kept Western civilization alive during the Dark Ages.

5. "William Trevor: The Collected Stories." It's hard to pick just one title by this Irish master so perhaps best to go with the omnibus.

6. "The Commitments" by Roddy Doyle. You could pick up any Roddy Doyle work and learn a good bit about life in Ireland, but this story of a group of working-class Irish kids who form a band and hope to bring soul to Dublin is particularly winning.

7. "The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse" edited by Thomas Kinsella. From the pre-Christian era up through Seamus Heaney, this collection celebrates the majesty of Irish verse.

8. "The Last of the Donkey Pilgrims" by Kevin O'Hara. In this charming travelogue, an Irish-American Vietnam vet travels around Ireland in the company of a donkey, hoping to heal his emotional wounds.

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9. "The Country Girls" by Edna O'Brien. It caused a scandal in its time, but it's still hard to overlook this 1960 classic about two Irish girls who try to escape their rural roots by moving to Dublin.

10. "The Glass Lake" by Maeve Binchy. There are those who find Binchy's books too sentimental, but it's hard not to like this coming-of-age tale anchored in the small Irish country town of Lough Glass.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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